Every 20 years, Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission meets to review the state constitution and propose changes. It’s happening this year, and this week is South Floridians’ chance to make some suggestions.
There are five ways to change the state constitution, but this is one of only two ways that citizens can be part of the process directly.
If they’ve got support from members of the commission, this is probably the easier way. (The alternative is the citizens’ initiative process, which requires getting A LOT of petitions signed.)
What’s this commission, anyway?
The commission has 37 people — 15 are appointed by the governor, nine by the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, nine by the president of the Florida Senate, three by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, and one by the attorney general of Florida.
Most of the people deciding who gets on the commission are Republican, with the exception of the chief justice, which is a nonpartisan position.
The group travels the state hosting forums to hear out Floridians on how they’d like to amend the constitution. Then the committee meets and decides which ones to put on the 2018 ballot.
Next year, we’ll vote on all those that the commission approves. Amendments need to pass with 60 percent of the vote for the constitution to be changed.
The last time the commission met (in 1997) they put nine amendments on the ballot, and eight ended up passing, including one to restructure the state cabinet and another to put some restrictions on gun purchases by instituting an option for a criminal history records check and a waiting period. (Here’s a full list of all of the amendments.)
Now a new group is traveling the state, and they’ll be local on Thursday night. If you’ve got thoughts on how to make the constitution better – or even just know the people making the changes – you should show up.
Local lawyer Leah Weston, Commissioner Ken Russell’s policy advisor (this is a personal initiative, though), hopes to submit an amendment that would give cities stronger rights when it comes to preemption – basically when the state overrules local laws, like when it banned cities from passing plastic bag bans.
“What we’ve seen over the course of 10 years is the use of preemption as a means of getting around cities’ [laws],” she explained. “I see this as an abuse that keeps going on and … my proposal is make it harder to pass a preemption bill.”
She wants to require a supermajority (60 percent) rather than a regular majority of legislators (51 percent) of a vote to pass any preemption bill.
But she’s never been to a meeting of the CRC, so she’s not exactly sure what to expect.
So we called them up to find out what’s up.
How it will work
The meeting will start with Chairman Carlos Beruff (yep, the same one who ran against Sen. Marco Rubio in the Republican primary in 2016) providing some brief opening remarks and a little explainer on what the CRC is. Then the floor will be open for public comment on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Attendees will fill out an appearance card if they want to speak. If you want to just want to come and listen, you’re welcome to do that as well.
“If all you have is an idea you can share that, and if you want to share a formal proposal you can do that as well,” explains Meredith Beatrice, a representative for the CRC. “This is about listening to Floridians.”